Can Mahathir Or Anwar Rally The Harapan Base

“No man will ever bring out of that office the reputation which carries him into it. The honeymoon would be as short in that case as in any other, and its moments of ecstasy would be ransomed by years of torment and hatred.” - Thomas JeffersonOne way or another, the longest political feud in Malaysian political history is ending. In this third and final instalment of the Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim brawl, the DAP yet again has to contend with Umno’s original sin
The former prime minister, as writer Jocelyn Tan rightly pointed out, is on a warpath and the press has been inundated with secret recordings, Mahathir's irony-free contempt for the system he helped create, statements from lackeys and of course the leaping of frogs from one camp to another
Meanwhile, PKR leader Anwar attempts to burnish his Malay/Muslim credentials and blaming the lack of political will in Pakatan Harapan when it comes to egalitarian policies as “strategic missteps”, instead of acknowledging that the underlying paralysis of the coalition was the petty political infighting and lack of ideological foundation when it came to creating a new Malaysia
The narratives that dominate the Harapan discourse are between the pro-Mahathir and pro-Anwar factions. The big question remains: can Harapan coalesce around the eventual chosen one? Will the Harapan base, already apathetic and riven with factional politics, turn out to vote regardless of who is chosen? Can the DAP make the sell that either leader will create a “New Malaysia reboot” after the spectacular implosion of the moribund original
This is like the recent Democratic Party primaries in the US, where former US president Barack Obama warned progressives that it could lead to a circular firing squad. Of course, within the American context, it is about ideology and in our situation, it is about pure personality politics
Harapan does not have narratives of rallying around the next leader – no matter which side comes out on top – and neither does it have a casus belli against the Perikatan Nasional regime beyond former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, who seems to be doing a better job, PR wise, than anyone in Harapan. This is what happens when you find religious charlatans who claim that it is better to be led by corrupt Muslim leaders than by honest “kaffirs”. Inspiring, I suppose
I have not seen a narrative put forward by either party that, no matter who wins, the whole of Harapan would rally around the winner. If you are an observer of American politics, especially of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) party politics, you would realise that US President Donald Trump has been portrayed as an existential threat and all DNC candidates vowed to back the winner of the primaries and marshal their supporters to turn out to vote
If you’re a Mahathir supporter and you keep telling everyone that PN is a threat, would you not vote for Harapan because Mahathir was not the PM? Similarly, if you are an Anwar supporter are you not going to vote Harapan because the man who leads the ticket is not your preferred candidate
The Democratic Party is paying the price for the former presidential candidates Bernie Sanders/ Hillary Clinton fiasco, which disenfranchised the base and resulted in the electoral college victory of Trump. It would seem that DNC voters have learnt a hard lesson
Right now, everyone is playing these sub rosa games and nobody is rallying the party. It is pointless making arguments that Anwar and Mahathir should join forces. They tried that already and both have demonstrated that, for whatever reasons, they cannot work together
Mahathir was plotting behind the scenes and Anwar for whatever reasons could not play hardball. The level of insanity in this whole mess is best exemplified by a letter to Malaysiakini from Mohd Azman, who wrote: “As a Harapan supporter, I also can't fathom why Anwar went to meet PN leaders like Muhyiddin Yassin (below) and Hamzah Zainuddin who were the key plotters who caused the downfall of Harapan.”Come on, does anyone seriously believe that Mahathir did not know that there were moves by members of his own party – who now claim that the old maverick knew of these moves – to destroy the chances of Anwar becoming PM
Never mind the fact that former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali was a known supporter of Mahathir – "thank God it’s over" – and whose lieutenants found favour in the Mahathir regime. Your main cheerleader in a party that your successor leads is plotting to bring down the government and you don’t know about it, or even suspect it? Nobody close to the prime minister – and now leaking to the press the narrative that Mahathir did not know anything – was aware of the plot by Azmin to cause this meltdown
I have said this before. If Mahathir was sincere in vanquishing Umno and reforming the system, he would publicly throw whatever support he has behind Anwar. He would publicly and unequivocally acknowledge Anwar as Harapan’s choice for prime minister, he would use his mastery of the political black arts to help Anwar and Harapan achieve their goals, whatever they are
Former education minister Maszlee Malik claimed that Putrajaya was not Anwar’s sole right but, the old maverick had two opportunities to chart the course of this country and both times he failed
DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong (below) argues that Mahathir and Anwar should close ranks, evoking Nelson Mandela of all people in this sordid mess. Isn't it strange, Mahathir has shown nothing but contempt for the DAP and by this I mean patronisingly chiding the Malay community for their Sino fear and his minions – if not himself – attacking the DAP when they attempt to carry out the mandate they were voted in for? I mean there's bootlicking and then there's sadomasochism (S&M)
DAP political operatives, meanwhile, are reduced to writing tear soaked letters to the current prime minister, reminding him that they acquiesced to everything he wanted and yet he still chooses to demonise the DAP to leave the Harapan fold
Think about it this way. They say the Malays were losing faith in Harapan, so the choice for them when it comes to Harapan is one leader who thinks that they are “lazy” and another who cannot even keep his house in order
If Harapan had continued the racist policies of BN and had carried out minor reforms, instead of engaging daily in petty conflicts, do you think that the majority polity would have any doubts about Harapan? You can make an argument for voting for a neo-BN but what argument could you make for these bunch of self-destructive political operatives
So the big question for Harapan supporters like Mohd Azman is, will he rally to Harapan no matter who is chosen? Will the Harapan rise? Can Mahathir or Anwar inspire the kind of fervour seen in the last election
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan. - Mkini

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